Officials knew of no other school in Washington County ever selected as a Blue Ribbon school.
"It's probably one of the most exciting things that can happen to a school. I'm like a new father with a new child," said Superintendent of Schools Herman G. Bartlett Jr.
"These schools demonstrate exceptionally well everything that public education in the state of Maryland is and can be. We are fortunate to be able to learn from them," said State Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick.
Schools are selected for the award based on a variety of criteria, including outstanding leadership, teaching environment, community support and assessment scores.
Hancock's assessment test scores used to be "in the cellar," but have dramatically improved in recent years, officials said. In the Maryland School Performance Assessment Program tests, the school's reading scores have tripled in the eighth grade in the last three years, said Principal Boyd J. Michael III.
Social studies, math and science scores at the eighth-grade level have nearly doubled in the same period, Michael said.
"Our school has come along way. It's well-deserving," said Michael, who took over the school two years ago.
Daniel Murphy, chairman of the school's Citizens Advisory Council, said much of the credit goes to Michael.
Like other schools, Hancock has switched from a seven- to a four-period day to improve instruction. School officials believe the longer classes create less confusion and give students more time to concentrate.
But because of the longer classes, some subjects are not covered for a semester at a time and there has been concern about students losing proficiency in those areas, according to Murphy. Michael instituted alternating "A" and "B" classes to insure all subjects are being constantly taught, Murphy said.
"I don't think he will blow his own horn, but that's where things started happening," said Murphy, referring to Michael's tenure at the school.
It's up to schools whether they believe they have the success rate needed to be named a Blue Ribbon school. They must complete a lengthy appication process, which includes filling out more than 35 pages of information, Michael said.